Rents Blog: The wiki edition
Rents Blog: The wiki edition
Over the past several months I’ve posted pieces on the phenomenon of rising rents to this blog, in an effort to explain what’s happening with the local rental market, why, and what is (or isn’t) being done to address those issues. (I’ve posted additional stories on rising rents and declining availability outside of the blog; more on those in the paragraphs that follow.)
The story is a big one for Alameda, with potentially broad implications for the face of our community: More than half of the Island’s residents are renters, according to 2010 Census data.
Now seemed as good a time as any to take stock of what we’ve learned so far and to talk about what additional issues we will explore – and to put all of that information in one place. Call it our rents blog wiki edition (and feel free to chime if there’s a story we haven’t covered yet but should).
Here’s what we know so far:
Median rents in Alameda are rising, Census data assembled by City Councilman Tony Daysog show, and while the average Alameda renter pays close to the maximum portion of their income toward rent that’s considered affordable, a rising percentage of renters are paying more than that. Renters’ median incomes, meanwhile, declined over the time periods Daysog studied.
Market rate rents for large complexes jumped more than 13 percent between 2013 and 2014 after remaining essentially flat for a decade, data collected by RealFacts show, though local owners – who make up the vast majority of owners on the Island – say their rents are below market rate. Rental units in Alameda are 97 percent occupied, the data show – a number regarded as full occupancy.
Landlords said the costs of owning property, and not greed, are driving rent increases, and that market cycles dictate when they can raise rents.
A 2014 survey of renters conducted by Renewed Hope found that two-thirds had seen their rent go up sometime in the prior 12 months, and 15 percent were handed rent increases of 10 percent or more. Many renters also expressed fears they could be priced off the Island.
While landlords and tenants are bound by state tenancy laws, Alameda doesn’t have rent controls – and it doesn’t seem likely the City Council will consider them. Renters have said the controls are needed to protect them from rent spikes, while landlords said that rent controls would impact both the quantity and quality of rentals on the market.
Alameda does have a Rent Review Advisory Committee that offers nonbinding mediation to resolve rent disputes, and the committee has had some success.
The rising rents also prompted one Island renter to form an advocacy group, the Alameda Renters Coalition, to provide support and links to resources for renters in crisis. The group, whose Facebook page boasts hundreds of members, is also advocating for more housing development here.
Here’s what I’m working on (and what I could use some help on):
Obviously, the big story that needs to be reported is rent control, and specifically, what works about it and what doesn’t. (Examples of other East Bay cities that have rent control ordinances are here.) I’ll be working on this one over the next couple of weeks; stay tuned.
I’d also like to talk about the supply of houses for sale right now, and how it compares to prior years.
I’ll also be keeping an eye on the City Council to see what, if anything, council members choose to do to address rising rents. On Tuesday council members affirmed their desire to gather information and to take steps to strengthen the Rent Review Advisory Commission, later this spring.
I’ve gotten a lot of requests to provide data on evictions, monthly rent costs and other rental market indicators. I’d love to be able to aggregate this information for you, but unfortunately, there just aren’t enough hours in the day for me to do it. If you have suggestions for a data source I should look at or are willing to help collect some of this data, let me know.
One other thing I’ve looked into: While reporting another rents story someone offered the tantalizing contention that availability of rentals was declining due to Airbnb. I finally got the chance to check into this a few weeks ago. When I typed “Alameda” and “Entire Place” into the search bars more than a thousand listings popped up, but when I clicked through them, most were actually in Oakland. All told, just 33 of the listings were on the Island, and those included several boats and an Airstream trailer.
For good measure I checked out another one of the big rental services, HomeAway, which boasted 25 Alameda listings, including this Gold Coast home, whose owner is asking $5,000 a week (it’s also on Airbnb).
What else would you like to know? Feel free to post a comment, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll see if I can look into it for you.